This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 10 table of contents.

The Hospice Movement

Terminally ill patients who elect not to remain in a hospital setting may decide to spend their last days in hospice care. There is a difference between "a hospice" (a place where terminally ill patients can stay and receive nursing care) and "hospice care" (in which the patient stays at home and receives visits from nurses and other hospice workers). Hospice care at home is the most common approach in the United States, unless a patient has no home, in which case a clinic or nursing care facility may be used.

What is the difference between "a hospice" and "hospice care"?

Generally speaking, a patient is admitted to the hospice care category when a doctor believes the person has less than six months to live and no hope of recovery. In hospice care, doctors and nurses no longer attempt to fight the disease; all their emphasis is upon making the patient comfortable. Dosages of painkillers are raised as high as necessary to eliminate pain, and special equipment is provided to make breathing and other basic functions comfortable.

What often happens during hospice care?

One might expect the atmosphere around a person under hospice care to be sad and depressed, but often the opposite is the case. Dying patients are often ready to die and wish only to spend their last days with loved ones, perhaps reviewing their life experiences and sharing valued memories. Often the most difficult task facing hospice workers is convincing family members to stop pretending the dying person is going to recover. People under hospice care often appreciate honesty and good company more than anything else.

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